Union members and activists are usually very loyal to our unions, work hard in day-to-day union organisation and disputes, and support our union leaders so long as they are supporting us. But we also often feel frustrated and demoralised when our unions settle deals above our heads or against our interests, drag heels and shy from a fight, or seek to resolve a dispute as soon as it begins. How often have we been baffled by seemingly bizarre actions from our unions? If a union exists to defend its members, why would its leaders behave in a way that jeopardises the interests of the very people they are supposed to represent? Is this cock-up or conspiracy? Or is it just that the union bureaucracy making the decisions is behaving like union bureaucracies do? If we look into what the union bureaucracy has been and is today, and the role it plays in society, we will get a clue as to why it acts as it does. Understanding the bureaucracy is the first step towards challenging it.